Sitting at my church's leadership meeting last night, I got to thinking. I'm privy to about three churches and one spiritual center's financial situation (it tends to be public information for non-profits). The first thing that crosses your mind is that maybe they ought to have an MBA on staff. Hearing of half a million dollars in operating deficit for 2004 is not unheard of. (You have no idea the insane cost of doing business in the San Francisco Bay area.)
When I got over that fleeting MBA-as-savior idea, I realized that they are all geared up to serve megachurch congregrations with their own multi-million dollar grounds and advertising and enterprise-like infrastructure.
In other words, they're set up for BIG. MBAs train for BIG. Most business books will advise you on BIG. Yet you often simply cannot take BIG ideas and transfer them directly to SMALL without disasterous results. You often need completely new thinking.
One church gets 250 in their congregration on an average Sunday, yet their infrastructure is capable of handling up 800. The real problem: All their fixed costs are set up for 800. Ouch. The other church gets about 60 average, but is set up for about 250 people. Not only do should you be able to nimbly scale up your time and resources, you need to be able to scale down. Up, down, across, sideways, whatever it takes - you have to be able to adapt flexibly and quickly. Some of these churches are having to sell property and assets to survive. And we don't know if they'll make it.
And then it hit me...
As I walked out of the meeting, I realized this blog has significantly more readers than two of these congregations combined and my deficit is thankfully less than half mil. It's almost scary, but there is so much leverage in SMALL than even I'd realized. All of a sudden, I was overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility. If I've ever given thought (I have) to being an ordained reverend, the fact that I was reaching more people than most churches do should qualm those desires. Anyway, rather than head up a church, my viewpoint sums up to:
"You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips."
— Oliver Goldsmith
Anyhow, I'll be tackling common misperceptions and myths around being small.
Today's Myth: "Small means that you can answer email from your customer." If I wasn't feeling so, uh, guilty, this would be hilarious. J.D. Lasica recently blogged that he was about 3000 emails behind. Fred Wilson mentioned he was thinking about declaring email bankruptcy. I don't have a solution myself, but email is an insatiable time monster no matter what your size.
Next: Authenticity is a given in SMALL. For instance, Seth says: "Small means you can tell the truth on your blog."
Next after that: The difference between hype and buzz triggered by Business 2.0's insistence on wedding hype (and blogs) with "instant companies."